How Do You Reformat a Dell Computer?

By John Hewitt

When a computer encounters a major problem, such as a virus, it may be necessary to reformat the hard drive--to erase its contents entirely. Dell packages recovery disks with all of the new hardware it sends out to customers. These disks make the formatting and operating-system re-installation process relatively simple, even for users who don't have much experience with computers. Modern Dell systems place restoration programs directly onto a separate partition on the hard drive, as well, increasing the convenience.

Step 1

Back up all important data on the system, including e-mails, spreadsheets, documents, images, web-browser bookmarks and other personal files. Copy these files to CD or DVD, copy them to an external hard drive, or upload them to an external server.

Step 2

Disconnect all external peripherals other than the keyboard and mouse. Removing this hardware speeds the reformatting process.

Step 3

Insert the recovery disk that came with your Dell computer into your CD drive and reboot the machine. Alternatively, if the computer runs Windows Vista, turn off the computer. Hold down the F8 key while it is powering up. When the Advanced Boot Menu shows up on the screen, select "Repair Your Computer." If the computer runs Windows XP, hold down Ctrl+F11 while it is booting up instead, and follow the rest of the instructions as normal.

Step 4

Log in as the administrator and select "Dell Factory Image Restore" from the menu. When the dialog comes up asking if you want to reformat the computer, select "Yes."

Step 5

Reinstall all drivers and important software and update Windows when the computer finishes the reformatting process. All files other than the ones that came pre-installed with the computer will have been deleted by the reformatting process.